MANY Pinoys are dismayed that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will be extended beyond Easter. Two weeks more? Maybe, even longer. The common thinking is that if the community quarantine implemented in almost all parts of the country will be lifted then things will go back to normal. Threatened businesses will rise again, trade and commerce will begin to pick up, and the economy will normalize.
The post Covid-19 reality is that things will not go back to normal, no not like before. Departed specialists, surgeons, young doctors, nurses, and other medical health workers cannot be brought back to life. To produce a new crop of medical specialists will take at least 20 years or more. Traditional destinations for further specializations overseas have significantly changed--socially, materially, and culturally. Fund assistance and scholarships have dried out, and former rich western nations welcoming foreign scholars have lost out a lot of their economic resources to the Covid-19 pestilence.
Truth is, the global recession has started--virtual meltdown of world economy, and banking systems. The USA and Canada are pump-priming their economies and meeting dire financial needs of laid-off workers, adding up to a growing mass of unemployed, by printing more dollar bills. How do these socio-economic trends in North America affect us? In the 1970s, it was commonly said during the series of global economic crises that when New York (stock market) sneezes, Tokyo coughs, and Manila gets pneumonia (my substitution for the original forgotten phrase).
If there is no turning back, then what?
I write with Negros, in near-future view, and in this column, I am making this clarion call for radical, pro-active measures to address very probable hunger problem. One thing good with our province nearly three decades after the hunger problem of the mid-1980s is that we have attained a certain degree of diversification. Thanks to the focused, persistent, loud cry of former Governor Daniel “Bitay” Lacson for diversification through foundations he helped established--the Negros Economic Development Foundation (NEDF), Negros Dungganon (adapted form of Bangladesh “Poor Man’s Bank”, and the Association of Negros Producers (ANP).
Remember 60-30-10 land use program? That was Bitay Lacson’s cry even before he became governor--reduce sugarcane plantation to 60%, plant 30% to high-value crop, and 10% of the land shall be for food security production of the sugarcane workers. The 60-30-10 model was Bitay Lacson’s call for the planters to address the hunger problem in Negros from 1983-1986, before the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or the CARP.
Today, we call on another Lacson--Governor Bong, to take heed of the hunger problem looming over the province, especially the Dumaan in the haciendas, the sacada/pangayaws, marginal fisherfolk communities in the coastal areas, and the kaingeros (yes, they persist to this day though they do it in a clandestine form). We need a post Covid-19 life plan program for Negros.
Beyond Covid-19, the number one issue to be addressed should be food security. This early, the governor should call on planters associations to provide for land areas for food production. We have a large pool of natural/organic food producers in the province that could be tapped to popularize already existing sustainable models of diversified cropping-- of vegetables, fruits, and root crops.
A food security council to address the high risk of hunger must immediately be organized as pro-active measure with agri-scientist and pioneer in this field, Ramon Peñalosa as Chair, Pamela Henares, et.al., and all mayors or LGU agriculturists as members. Chartered cities like Bacolod City must follow suit.